Monday, November 21, 2016

Small wings can make big flights

In a few years, a passenger from Ramnad may not have to take a 10-hour train journey to Chennai or a road trip to Madurai airport to fly abroad. He or she can take a nine-seater aircraft from Ramnad and fly to Madurai or Trichy, and then board a connecting flight to Mumbai, Delhi, or the rest of the world.
Flying between small towns is going to be the norm if the ministry of civil aviation has its way in developing regional connectivity. In Tamil Nadu, more than 14 unused airstrips and a few underserved airports have been identified for this purpose. These include airstrips in Arakkonam, Chettinad, Cholavaram, Hosur, Kayatar, Neyveli, Ramnad, Salem, Sulur, Thanjavur, Ullundurpet and Vellore. Some of these were built by the British during the Second World War while others used to be private airstrips for the rich but now defunct.
The airstrips could be used to fly nine-seater to 18-seater flights so that people from the hinterlands can have easy access to bigger airports, said Union minister of state for civil aviation Jayant Sinha detailing the Centre's plan to develop air connectivity in the next 10 years.
The ministry is trying to encourage private entrepreneurs to invest in these facilities for basic infrastructure if airlines show readiness to operate. Airports Authority of India too has been considering developing small airports with frugal facility like a hall as the terminal.
In the southern peninsula, the density of airports is high. There are eight airports with good passenger traffic. The airstrips identified for development are scattered in such a way that these can connect people in remote areas to the existing airports for onward journey. However, airlines have to bid for these routes. The bidding is likely to happen in January. Two defence air strips - Tambaram and Arakkonam - are also included in this and are expected to be opened up for civilian aircraft if airlines show interest.
21/11/16 V Ayyappan/The Times Of India